Analyst Says W.R. Grace Knew About Asbestos

Former financial analyst for W.R. Grace & Co. has testified that top corporate officials knew products contained asbestos and were concerned about whether it would lead to lawsuits.

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) -- A former financial analyst for W.R. Grace & Co. has testified that top corporate officials knew their products contained asbestos and were concerned about whether it would be hazardous to people or lead to lawsuits against the company.

James R. Becker testified Monday in the government's criminal case against Grace. At issue is whether Columbia, Md.-based Grace and five one-time company officials knew they were endangering the community of Libby by mining asbestos-laced ore, and whether they did so in violation of federal law.

Becker worked for Grace from 1976 until 1980, and sat on the company's Zonolite Strategic Task Force, which was created to identify any long-term problems associated with Grace's vermiculite mine in Libby. The vermiculite used in products include fireproofing and attic insulation.

Becker says the group identified a number of potential problems including tighter asbestos regulations, workers compensation lawsuits and the threat of criminal action against the company.

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